Friday, December 17, 2010

7 Quick Takes: The Advent Edition

Wasn't it just summer? Now it's cold enough to need hats, scarves, and gloves. The lake has a layer of ice on top. It snowed, and we got Thursday and Friday off from school because of it. Everyone is saying how they can't believe there's only a week until Christmas. I spent two hours shoveling my driveway yesterday. Wasn't I lounging in the sun by the pool just last week?


What is your all-time favorite Christmas carol? My sister-in-law asked this question at Christmas dinner one year. I didn't answer because I knew if I did I'd start blubbering right there. Last night the question came up again on Facebook. My favorite: O Holy Night. Why? Because when I was a kid, my mother sang it at our church's annual Christmas Eve candlelight service. We were sitting in the pews with my dad, the lights in the church dimmed, and candles in the windows, and all of a sudden the organ started playing and I heard my mother's voice. I turned around to see her in the balcony with a light shining on her, and she was singing this beautiful carol I don't think I'd ever heard before. She looked and sounded like an angel.

This is the only picture I can find online of the inside of the church where I grew up. It might have looked like this that night. (Sometime I'll tell you about the stained glass window in the front, if I can get a better photo of it. Meanwhile you can read about how I grew from my Baptist roots to my Catholic faith here, here, and here.)


OK, I need some advice. My mother doesn't want anything extravagant for Christmas, but I want to get her something meaningful nonetheless. I'm planning to get a small gift for her to open (which I've already ordered) and then make a donation to a charity on her behalf. My dad says that she would prefer something that is Christian-based. My mom is Baptist, a retired teacher, and she teaches an ESL class at their church. A few years ago we made a gift donation to Habitat for Humanity for her, and this would be fine again of course, but it would be nice to find something different as well. They already support World Vision and Samaritan's Purse; I could give something to the Central Asia Institute (Greg Mortenson's effort to educate girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan) even though it isn't religious in nature, since she and I are big fans of that organization, and since we went to a lecture he gave together. (read more about that here.)
Anyway, If you have any suggestions, just leave them in the comment box. And Mom, if you're reading this--I know you don't see this very often--your suggestions would be the most valuable of all! :-)

(By the way, Elizabeth over at 100th Lamb has a very similar dilemma---head on over to her place and vote in her informal charity poll. They're also trying to decide what organization to donate to.)


I've finally put an RSS link on my sidebar. Now it's easier than ever to access this, your favorite blog. I mostly wanted it so that my mother can find it more easily--I bookmarked it on her computer but she doesn't know how to find it. The only time she gets to see this blog is when I email her the link. I want her to be able to set it up so that the posts go right to her email, but I can't figure out how she can do this using those links. Any suggestions? I have a couple of WordPress blogs that I subscribe to (A Simple Twist of Faith and I Have to Sit Down--and I read almost all of those posts simply because they're right in my inbox); does this work with Blogger too? Help! Thanks!


When Curly and I went to the 2009 March for Life, we caught a glimpse of Operation Rescue's Truth Truck. The pictures on the sides showed tiny unborn babies that had been wrenched from their mothers' wombs, with coins next to them to give you some idea of how small they were. I'm not one to post graphic pictures of aborted babies, mostly because I wouldn't want a youngster to inadvertently run across one. I have some young Facebook friends--mostly sons and daughters of adult friends--who I don't want to traumatize by exposing them to such graphic images. (When Curly saw the pictures on the Truth Truck, I asked him how they made him feel, and he said they made him sad, but admitted they were kind of strange-looking; after all, they were in the very early stages of development.)

Browsing my blog reader yesterday morning I ran across what may be the most disturbing abortion photo I have ever seen. I swear if it hadn't been a real baby I might have thought it was something from a horror movie. Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong posted an interesting dialog between himself and an agnostic who was trying to argue that the Bible doesn't teach that abortion is wrong. It's a compelling post (Dave proves, of course, that the Bible does indeed forbid abortion), if you can get past the awful images. Further down there is another image that's almost as sickening as the first one.

Anyhow, if you're already pro-life, the photo here will shock and sadden and sicken you. (Be forewarned; it's extremely graphic.) And if you're still pro-choice after seeing it, you must have a serious problem. I just can't see how any rational person could possibly argue for abortion "rights" after seeing that.

Which brings to mind a question: Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life often says "America won't reject abortion until America sees abortion." He reminds us that people didn't get outraged over slavery and the Holocaust until they saw graphic pictures of emaciated people, slaves with scars covering their backs, and truck beds and mass graves full of bodies. Do you agree? Personally I have mixed feelings about using images of aborted children to spread the pro-life message; on the one hand, they do expose the truth about what abortion really is, but sometimes I wonder if it only serves to enrage pro-choicers and make them more determined to dig in their heels. What are your thoughts?


This is one of my favorite Christmas ornaments because my grandmother made it. She had boxes and boxes in her house of silk styrofoam ornaments, beads, jewels, ribbons, and all kinds of accessories. She used pins to attach little decoratons to them, sometimes threading beads to long hat pins so they'd stick out from the top and bottom. Every year her Christmas tree was covered with all kinds of her homemade ornaments. She didn't make any money doing this as far as I know, but she loved making them and giving them away to friends and family members. We always had several on our tree growing up, and when she passed away, my cousins, my brother and I divided her collection amongst ourselves. I think my mother still has a few that my brother and I had made with her supplies when we visited her. (We never could make them as pretty as hers, no matter how hard we tried.)


Every year we get out this nativity calendar, and every day starting on December 1, we open up the little door and take out whichever piece is behind it. (By the way, can you figure out why I got this at a discounted price? Look at the numbers.) As we get closer to Christmas, the picture starts to fill in, and the last one to come out is baby Jesus. The boys started calling it my "panic calendar," because last year I made the mistake of admitting that watching all the little players arrive on the scene only reminds me how much I still have to do in such a little amount of time.
That's not what it's for, is it?


If you're looking for some last-minute gift ideas, I've got a couple of gems for ya. My friend Rachel's husband Juan is a teacher in the public school system, and he's also a talented writer. He is working on a children's book trilogy, a science fiction saga called Planet Korgg. I bought a couple of copies of the first installment, Planet Korgg: Lost in Space, for my kids a while back, and we listened to an audio version he had made. Our boys loved it. The book isn't very long; I'm sure most kids could probably read it in one sitting. It's about a family living in the future, and they get stranded on a man-made "planet" that was created as a vacation destination. Lots of adventure lurks in its pages (and dinosaurs, and sea monsters), and I was happy to learn that Juan is now working on the second book in the series. You can order a copy at the book's website (click here); he's working on making it available at places like Amazon and Borders and other major book chains. Hopefully if he can sell enough copies this will become a reality. (I never knew how difficult it was to get a book published, much less sold in a regular bookstore.)

Our little niece and nephew aren't quite old enough for Planet Korgg yet, so in the meantime I hope they enjoy Mr. and Mrs. Food Face. My sister-in-law will love us for getting them something that encourages them to play with their food. Especially if Dad encourages them, which he probably will.

Stay tuned for a "Get Thee To the Woods" post (so much for staying away from Blogger until Christmas), and I'll tell you about an organization I recently learned of that's all about getting kids out in the fresh air. I'll also post some pictures of our recent snowfall, and the fun the boys have had with it.

For more quick takes, visit Jenn at Conversion Diary! Now to get some work done.


  1. Thanks for the call out, funny, I am trying to figure out how to place a RSS feeder on my wordpress blog!

    As for the graphic images, call me softie, but I am NOT in favor of them. Why? Because I think it is not effective, and I have two young children, both who were adopted.

    I did participate in 40 Days for Life this fall. The most effective approach, I think, is to let women know that they can choose life, and there are orgaizations who will help them when they do.

  2. Hi, Mary! Well, somehow I was able to subscribe to your blog because it comes through my email. And I think you're right about the graphic images, and they have a tendency to make people mad. And I can see where you're coming from, too, having adopted two children. 40 Days for Life is a GREAT way to spread the pro-life message! :)

  3. Hi Sharon,

    O Holy Night is my favorite carol and also my wife Judy's. Awesome song . . .

    Sorry about the abortion photos. We pro-lfers don't need to see them. I understand the debate on that, but in the end I have to come down on the side of showing the photos (occasionally, anyway), because this is the reality of it, and it has been hidden all too long.

    If we don't like seeing them (and I hate it as much as anyone, believe me; I get almost sick), then I think we need to pause and stop to think that some people out there on the fence may actually have their minds changed in an instant. And that could possibly save lives in the future. That is well worth our discomfort at seeing this brutality and what it does.

    We have to show people what abortion is for them to grasp the full horror of it. I've done the arguments for almost thirty years. They rarely work by themselves. It takes a punch to the gut and a realty check sometimes to get through.

    So that's why I did that, in a debate with an agnostic. I wanted people to see exactly what he erroneously thinks the Bible condones or is silent about. I am sorry if they offended any pro-lifer who saw them.

    Wishing you and yours a blessed Advent and Christmas,

    Dave Armstrong

  4. A few more thoughts:

    And if you're still pro-choice after seeing it, you must have a serious problem. I just can't see how any rational person could possibly argue for abortion "rights" after seeing that.

    Here you're making my point for me. Some folks will see these horrible pictures and change their mind. Is there any imaginable reason that could be a better justification than that? Yet we pro-lifers debate about showing the pictures that might cause decent, fair-minded (ignorant) people to become pro-lifers themselves?

    Personally I have mixed feelings about using images of aborted children to spread the pro-life message; on the one hand, they do expose the truth about what abortion really is, but sometimes I wonder if it only serves to enrage pro-choicers and make them more determined to dig in their heels.

    Yes, of course it will enrage the hard-line pro-aborts, but this is the nature of things. A thing like this will always infuriates those people whose sin and false views it exposes.

    It was the same with the gospel. If we used the same reasoning in the early Church, we would say, "hey, we shouldn't go around preaching this gospel because it makes some people very angry and they even go out and kill Christians as a result. So we shouldn't preach it. We should use honey rather than vinegar."

    The truth (including visual depictions) has to be promulgated. It is impossible not to offend some people. But they aren't the ones who will be reached, anyway. It is the people on the fence, who haven't decided, and who are ignorant of the frightful reality of abortion.

    It's the same in politics. There are the hardcore conservatives and liberals, and never the twain shall meet. Their messages infuriate each opposite camp. But elections are about influencing the ones in the middle; the undecideds.

    Apologetics also works that way. When I post a dialogue, I have little or no expectation of persuading an agnostic (such as this person I just debated). But I have high expectations of influencing and persuading or moving along a bit any number of people who are still working through the issue and haven't yet made up their minds.

    So the pro-aborts are offended by the pictures. Of course. They don't want to be seen as defenders of such an outrage. A good proportion of pro-lifers also are (but I think the reasons ultimately fail and miss the mark).

    Ones in the middle will either be affected in the right way (and oppose abortion) or will get angry. Truth is truth, and injustice is injustice. If I can convince just a few people out there that abortion is wrong, by these photos, then it is worth 10,000 Christians who feel squeamish about showing the ghastly reality of abortion.

    The same applies to Operation Rescue. I was part of that movement. I was in about 23, was arrested five times, and did jail time (nothing serious). Christians wanted to argue about tactics and condemn civil disobedience. We wanted to save lives. There are men and women alive today walking around, because of these rescues (they would be 20 or 21 years old now).

    I was a Protestant then and at one rally I sat next to Archbishop Vaughn of New York. It is a key reason for making me decide to become a Catholic, because the Church had the wisdom to recognize that there are times when man's law must give way to God's Divine Law.

    Thanks for letting me give my "side" of this.

  5. I also made a new post about this, just to let you know:

  6. Hello, Dave! Thanks for your comments. No need to apologize for the photos; despite my squeamishness about them I do think it's necessary for us to expose the truth even though some will get angry. From my post I can see why you might have thought I was criticizing you for using them; that certainly was not my intention. But I do understand how some, like Mary, who has adopted children, might be upset by them. That could easily have been her child. I think right now I'm just trying to figure out how I, as a new and inexperienced prolife advocate (I've only just begun to get my feet wet in the prolife movement) want to spread the prolife message. I've always been the one who kept her mouth shut for fear of alienating people, and speaking out against abortion is already outside of my comfort zone. 40 Days for Life has been a great way for me to get started, and maybe that was part of the reason I started this blog in the first place.

    I actually was going to write "To my prochoice friends: I dare you to click on this link." I didn't because I thought some would take that as my trying to start an argument. Maybe I should have! :)

    Blessings to you!

  7. It is the same issue in politics. There are conservatives and hardcore liberals, and never the twain shall meet. Your messages annoy each opposing side. But the elections have to influence them in the middle.

  8. I always enjoy this carol. My favorite O Holy Night...

  9. And wouldn't you know it it is winter again and getting pretty cold. thanks for sharing the pictures. Happy Holidays.


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